Opinion: A woman is blamed even when a brutal crime is committed against her

A 24-year-old BDS student in Kerala was shot dead by her stalker, who took his own life, yet there is an outpouring of sympathy in the comments section on social media for the murderer, writes Minaxi Sajeev.
Opinion: A woman is blamed even when a brutal crime is committed against her
Opinion: A woman is blamed even when a brutal crime is committed against her
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Whenever a horrific, tragic crime happens with a woman at the centre of it, it holds up a mirror to our society’s mindset. The narratives that people are quick to bring to these crimes are nothing short of appalling. Manasa, a 24-year-old BDS student was shot dead by Rakhil, who took his own life after he shot her. The reason for this act was because Manasa was not interested in pursuing a relationship with him, which he was not ready to accept. Rakhil, a native of Kannur had rented a room near Manasa’s house, which was close to her college and is said to have stalked her for a month. On July 30, he barged into Manasa’s room, which she shared with her friends, pulled her out to the next room, and fired the gun at her, following which he shot himself.

As disturbing as the news is, what is further upsetting is the comment section under news reports. There is an outpouring of sympathy for the murderer portraying him as a ‘jilted lover’, and ‘being cheated by the woman’. There are multitudes of men and women commenting, who have heralded the murderer as the ‘beacon of true love’. It does not stop there. There is widespread vilification of the woman, firstly for getting into a relationship with someone through Instagram and secondly for walking out of the relationship, leaving the man ‘heartbroken’ enough to take such an extreme step. Apparently, ‘she brought it upon herself’ and the ‘poor man too lost his life in the process.’ There are also “concerned citizens” in the comment section professing the adverse effects of girls and women using social media, and heavens forbid, communicating with a stranger through it. 

Leaving aside comments from the public, who dole out their ignorance in abundance on social media, according to media reports K Karthick IPS, District Police Chief for Ernakulam Rural, was also quoted pointing out the dangers that lurk when women befriend and date people through social media. He conveniently underplays or ignores the fact that Manasa and her family had sought help and had filed a complaint against Rakhil at the local police station and no legal action was taken following this, and he was sent off with a warning. It is unfortunate that the officer’s statement indirectly implies that such crimes happen primarily because women do not exercise enough caution on social media. Just like not marrying is not the solution to eliminate domestic violence and not driving a car is not the solution to avoid road accidents, making friends on social media isn’t the issue that we should be addressing here!

Crimes against women

Also, these crimes and narratives make one wonder, is it only women who fall out of love? Are we the only ones who are capable of growing out of relationships? On that thought, here are some crimes against women in Kerala, that made it to the news in the recent past:

>Calicut: Man barges into a woman's house and hits her with a helmet, dislodging five of her teeth

>Kochi: Man harasses and snips off a woman’s hair on the road as revenge for rejecting him

>Thripunithura: A man slashes a woman who filed a complaint against him for eve-teasing

>Kaloor, Kochi: Man tries to murder a Kothamangalam native woman for saying no to his marriage proposal

>Maala, Trisshur: A man slashes a college student’s face with a blade because she rejected his proposal

>Punnayurkulam, Thrissur: Man sets fire to the girl’s house, locking her and her family inside as an act of revenge for rejecting him

>Kunnamkulam, Trisshur: Man stabs woman on the neck while walking on a busy road for rejecting him

>Kollam: Man attacks his classmate for rejecting his marriage proposal, causing her to lose her hearing

>Sasthamkotta, Kollam: Man stabs a 16-year-old girl with a screwdriver for rejecting him 

>Thiruvananthapuram: Affluent businessman plants narcotics at woman’s boutique after she breaks of the relationship

This is barely scratching the surface of all that happens to women on a daily basis. But where are the reports of men who are afraid to walk the streets in fear of a stalker? Of being cat-called while walking from college to the hostel? Of being blackmailed with photographs? Of being stabbed in the neck because they said no to a marriage proposal? Of being shot dead in his room because she couldn’t take the rejection? (While there have been stray cases of men being attacked with acid by women, these are very rare).

Despite all this, despite the spine chilling murder of Manasa, the blame is placed on the woman for walking out of a relationship she did not want to be in. Women are blamed for getting into a relationship with strangers they meet via social media. And in this case, a large part of a highly literate society thrusts the responsibility of Manasa’s murder upon her action; because we are yet to learn how not to raise boys with a blind sense of entitlement, who then grow up to become problematic men who think they can decide the fate of someone who refuses to dance to their tunes or even worse, ignores or rejects them. Unless men and this patriarchal society stop seeing women as property to be owned and disposed of at man’s will, and love as their licence to do so, these incidents will not stop.

An immediate action to be taken by media houses is to disable comments while reporting such crimes against women, because the venom that is being spewed as comments beneath these news stories further pushes us back to a dark hole, from which we should be desperately trying to crawl out. And in case there is a survivor from such a horrific event, just imagine the mental trauma that reading the comments causes them. But isn’t it our right to discuss and express our views? Of course, yes, but a quick peek at the comments show that we are not enough of an emotionally intelligent society to be able to have that privilege on a public platform. Media giants. like NPR, have closed their comment section. NPR issued a statement saying: "After much experimentation and discussion, we've concluded that the comment sections on NPR.org stories are not providing a useful experience for the vast majority of our users.” This could be practised here as well, at least when it comes to sensitive cases.

The government should also take responsibility to bring about a change in this thought process by introducing a well thought out comprehensive gender-studies curriculum in schools. Counselling or gender justice forums should be set up for young adults that will help them unlearn the lessons taught by patriarchy and equip them to live in and to create a gender-just society. This is something the government should address to initiate much-needed change.  

Minaxi Sajeev is a Corporate Communication Strategist and the author of the anthologies 'One Woman Island' and 'The Unlabelled Happy Woman'.

Views expressed are the author’s own.

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